Okay, this isn't the last chapter. It's the second last. But this is going to be monolithic (sp?) if I try and fit the ending all in one chapter.


Brett doesn't end up delivering my furniture. Rather, James negotiates with him to keep the goods in storage. I'll be paying the storage rental until everything is rehoused.

I send emails to both Brett and Lee in the following week, attempting to explain my decision. Lee responds after a few days. His reply is angry, harshly worded and accusing. He thinks I'm a fool. He demands I return home and plead for Brett's forgiveness. This sets off a flurry of emails, until eventually Lee sends one final letter, informing me that he no longer cares what I do with my life. He'd like to keep in touch, but he's lost a lot of respect for me, and cannot comprehend why I've left my partner of four years.

Brett doesn't contact me until some three weeks later. He emails me to advise the bank will be depositing 'the' money into my account in the following 48 hours. He makes no reference to my email, and no reference to our time together. I want to ask him how he's coping, and if he's 'over' me, but James and Mitch shake their heads at me and tell me to leave Brett alone.

I admittedly feel a little guilty when two days later, I check my bank account and find the balance to be around twice what I expected. I didn't realise how much 'our' new house was going to be worth. More to the point, I genuinely expected Brett to deposit ten or twenty thousand and tell me that was full and final payment.

James tells me to use the money to buy myself an apartment, so I'll have future security. I'm not sure. I'll never have this amount of money again, and I'd kind of like to travel overseas. Maybe even study in America or something.

Another week passes and I start to wonder more and more about how Brett and Lee are going. I also want to 'make peace' with Brett. Even though I'm relieved the relationship is over, I still have a lot of respect for him. He gave up his freedom, and his sexual identity, for the sake of a foster child , and he didn't make the ending of our relationship unduly difficult.

Two days later I find myself waiting in the teacher carpark for him at the TAFE where he works. I lean against his black Astra, smoking a cigarette, and praying he won't be angry.

It's Friday afternoon and my gaze drifts to the students leaving the campus for the weekend. Some are young, some are old, some dressed in the clothing of their trades, others - those aiming to work in offices - in casual, fashionable, clothing.

'Damon?'

I come face to face with Brett for the first time in nearly six weeks. My heart skips a beat as for the first time in years I look at him not as my lover, but from the point of view of an outsider. He must have been doing prac work with his student's today, because his gray Bonds shirt is slightly damp and sticking to his chest, and there are workboots on his feet. His dark hair is slightly too long, with a few strands plastered to his forehead and the back of his neck, and in his arms are a stack of books and a pair of blue overalls. I still find him attractive; he's not an ugly man, but I also see him as someone who is deserving of more respect than I showed him.

'I'm sorry,' I blurt. 'I shouldn't be here. I just wanted to see how you were going.'

His face falls a little, and I realise he was maybe hoping that I was here to ask if we could 'try again'.

'Do you need a ride home?' he asks, regaining his composure.

I pause. 'Thank-you.'

He shrugs and places the books and his overalls on the roof of the car, before opening the doors. He dumps his possessions on the back seat, and straps himself into the driver's seat.

The scent of the car, of Brett when he's been doing prac work - the grease, the sweat, the deodorant... this wasn't a good idea. It reminds me of our time together, and raises doubts that I don't normally have.

He leans over me and opens the glovebox, withdrawing cigarettes and a lighter. I stare at his arm, and mentally picture it protectively draped over my stomach, post coital. Brett was by no means my most skilled lover, but he was more than satisfactory on the two or three occasions each week when he was actually interested.

Smoke fills the air as he lights up and I remember what a stickler he used to be about smoking in the car. Once Lee moved in with us, he refused to let me smoke either inside our unit, or in the car. He must be nervous if he's breaking his own rules.

'How is everyone?' I ask meekly.

'They're good,' he replies guardedly. 'We moved into our new house. That's made things a lot better.'

'Hmph. More like your father and Leanne are just pleased I'm gone.'

Brett hesitates. He doesn't answer until he pulls up at a red light.

'Nobody's happy you're gone,' he replies, his voice breaking. 'You should come around and visit Lee in the afternoons. He gets home at three-thirty. Come on a Wednesday if you want; I don't normally get home until six thirty or seven.'

'I don't think Lee wants to see me anymore.'

'He does,' Brett argues firmly, staring at the car in front of him. 'He's I really wish you'd speak to him.'

'Oh,' I reply uncertainly. 'Okay. Tell him I miss him, please? I do miss him. Ella and Claire, too.'

Brett nods and reaches for the stereo. He inserts an old Triple J Hottest One Hundred CD from the mid-nineties, when the music met both Brett and my tastes. I listen to Bush and Live and Pulp, and remember singing along to Common People with him one Friday afternoon, back in the days when I was ridiculously in love with him and was pleased at the thought of a weekend spent with my lover.

'Well,' Brett shrugs as he pulls up outside the block of flats where James and Mitch live. 'We're here. It was good seeing you.'

'Yeah,' I agree, slowly opening the door. 'Uh, Brett...Evan's staying with Hailey this weekend, and James and Mitch won't be back until nine-thirty, ten o'clock tonight. I really want to have a talk to you. I'd like it...I'd appreciate it if you could come in with me.'

Brett doesn't reply straightaway. He stares down at his hands, his face contorting, as he makes his decision. 'I'll need to call Lee and tell him I'm going to be late.'

'You can call from inside.'

He glances over, his gaze slightly...resentful. He's guarding himself, and truthfully, I'm glad he is, because at this moment all I can remember are our good times. I remember the fun, the passion, the love, and not the fights, the resentments and the monotony of life together.

'Okay,' he sighs. 'Where should I park?'

I guide him to the garage allocated to my current hosts, and he parks effortlessly in the confined space. I follow him out of the garage, my gaze drifting over his back, butt and legs. God I miss the sex. I miss the way he'd touch me, his kisses and cuddles and his after sex cosiness.

'Damon?'

'Sorry,' I apologise, feeling like a dunce when I realise I'm standing motionless outside the garage. I need to stop thinking like this. Brett and I are not suited, we are not meant to be together.

I race up the stairs, brushing past him and standing in front of the door, fumbling in my pockets for the keys. When I put the key in the lock, I realise my hand's shaking. I'm nervous. I take a deep breath and unlock and push open the door. I can do this. I can do this.

'Mind the mess,' I apologise, gesturing for Brett to come in. 'There are toys everywhere. I rolled over in bed last night and got jabbed by an action man.'

He half smiles. 'Kids.'

He likes kids. He doesn't mind the mess or the bad behaviour or the financial burden children bring. I expect his next partner will be a woman. I can see Brett marrying within a year or two and settling his new wife in at home, before making a few children that will be biologically his.

'I guess you'll be able to find a woman now and make babies,' I remark aloud. 'That would be nice for you.'

'Why do you say that?'

'Why?' I clarify. 'Because you love kids. And I mean, you look like the kind of guy who'd be married with three children and a pet dog. You used to act that way, too. Like you were married or something.'

I gesture for Brett to sit down on the couch. He sits down slowly, cautiously, and looks over at me, his face questioning. 'Is that why you left me? Because I acted like I was married to you?'

'Brett…'

'…No, it's fine,' he shrugs, waving my offer aside. 'Forget I asked. I'm going to have a smoke okay? I should get going soon. I don't think there's anything we really need to talk about.'

He walks out onto the balcony that comes off the kitchen and sits in an old plastic chair. I watch him smoking and start to crave nicotine.

Brett turns around as I slide the glass door open and take the seat next to his. He smiles at me. It's a rueful smile, as if to say 'whoever thought it would end this way?' and I'm not sure how to respond.

'Brett? Do you regret our time together?'

The smile flees his face. He leans down and stubs his cigarette out in the ashtray before leaning back into his seat and shutting his eyes.

'No,' he replies, opening his eyes and staring up at the sky. 'I loved you. I still do love you. Every moment we had together was…I as always happy when I was with you. I, uh, I thought I'd met the person I was going to spend the rest of my life with.'

I hate seeing him upset. I've always hated it. Brett was never a guy to break down in tears at the drop of a hat; once or twice a year he'd cry over something, but that was the extent of it. And he always cried over worthy things.

'Brett…it's not…I didn't…'

'…Don't,' he interrupts. 'I'm not here to talk about this, anyway. I honestly don't know why it is I am here.'

He stands up and walks back inside without giving me a second glance. He's angry and upset and I'm upset and regretful. I wanted to make peace with him, not upset him. I wanted to sort things out. I follow him inside, half-jogging after him and grabbing hold of his arm just seconds before he's about to open the front door.

'Brett, don't go. I don't want you to go yet.'

'Well for fuck's sake, what do you want?' he asks bitterly. 'I don't know. Why can't you tell me what I did wrong?'

He brushes his hands through his hair restlessly. His eyes are red and he won't meet my gaze, instead his eyes dart around the flat impatiently, as though he wants nothing more than to find some sense in all of this.

'I'm sorry,' I apologise, resting a hand on his wait. 'I'm sorry. Here,' I offer, placing my other hand on his forearm. 'Come here.'

His body's stiff in my arms for a few seconds before he relaxes and cautiously allows me to hug him. God it feels weird to have him in my arms again. It's comforting, though. He knows my insecurities and he's hugged me on so many occasions; out of love, out of sympathy, and simply because I was nearby and we both craved affection.

I start to rub his lower back. He makes a soft noise in the back of his throat and buries his face in my neck. The rough scratchiness of his cheek, and the warmth of his breath on my neck bring me back to happier times. Even after all this time apart, it still feels natural to hug him, to be the recipient of his touch.

Unthinkingly, I smile and kiss his forehead.

He raises his head and meets my eye. I start to feel queasy. I know I'm about to do a terrible thing. Deep inside my heart, I know I should never have touched him. Neither of us were ready for it.

Brett leans forward and gently kisses me. He pulls away, smiles at me, and brushes my hair from my face before placing another kiss on my lips. He starts to touch me in a way that's not appropriate for ex-lovers and I respond, stroking his back, his butt, his hips.

I wish I could stop. I wish I had the courage, and the morals, to tell him to leave. But I can't, and I don't. It wasn't easy for me to leave him, and even though I know – fuck it, I know – I don't want to stay with him, I tell myself that 'once more' won't matter. We'll have sex and Brett will leave. He's not stupid; he's got to know that our relationship has ended and this is nothing more than random sex.

'You're beautiful,' he whispers, pushing my shirt up. His hands roam over my torso before slipping down over my ass and then, gently, rubbing my hard on. I return his touch, and kisses, hungrily. I've stopped sleeping with James and Mitch, and it's been a while since I've had the time and privacy to wank, so I'm more than ready for a little sexual relief.

'Bedroom,' I mumble in between kisses. 'Come to the bedroom. We'll make love.'

Brett smiles at me, his eyes alight. He looks as though he's been given a gift he never expected to receive.

I expect the only thing my eyes show are my lust.